How can your small business compete with the big boys?
Simple. You automate.
First, you need to let go.
If you want to grow, you simply can’t handle everything manually.
Chris Ducker of Virtual Staff Finder calls this the “Superhero Syndrome” — the feeling of being ultra-confident that you can handle everything on your own.
As a business owner, when you finally decide to take a different approach and not let your ego drive you towards “Superhero Syndrome”, you know that you have to automate your business as much as possible to be able to seize your business goals.
Here’s The Big Challenge
The clients we work with at ICE Accelerate want to know…
- Which automation tools should I use…
- to automate and accelerate growth…
- that stay within my budget.
That’s exactly the question we will address in this article.
Let’s start with the…
5 Types of Business Automation Tools
Ready for a statement from Captain Obvious?…
There are A LOT of business automation tools out there.
But the truth is, they all fall within one of five major categories…
- Email Marketing Tools
- Marketing Automation Tools
- Contact Relationship Management Tools
- Shopping Cart Tools
- All-In-One Solutions
And here’s the good news.
You don’t need all of them. In fact, chances are you’ll only need one or two of these tools to put the majority of these tedious manual tasks on autopilot.
(Don’t worry, there’s a downloadable Business Automation Tool Comparison spreadsheet you can download at the bottom of this article to compare 30+ tools in the marketplace)
Let’s take a look at each of these types of solutions in turn…
Email Marketing Tools
What are Email Marketing Tools?
Email marketing tools allow you to…
- set up web forms
- auto responders
- and give you basic email marketing reports (open rates, click-through rates, etc)
Autoresponders are singular sequences of emails that go out automatically after a web form is filled out.
Here’s an image of a web form from Active Campaign that, once filled out, would trigger an autoresponder. The email tool builds the web form and manages the sending of the autoresponder sequence.
They also have flexible API interfaces so you can integrate with the other systems we’ll discuss, such as contact management systems and shopping cart solutions.
When to Use Email Marketing Tools
At the very least, you’ll need a basic, free email marketing tool.
Mail Chimp has a free, no obligation plan so businesses can start to use email marketing in their business early on.
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Marketing Automation Tools
The next step up from email marketing is Marketing Automation.
Marketing Automation does everything email marketing does but also gives businesses the ability to set up dynamic rules for when actions or behaviors are shown in your follow-up email marketing process.
They are also powerful in their ability to segment contacts dynamically as well. This allows companies to drill down their marketing efforts to the right segments at all times, automatically or on a whim.
The benefits of Marketing Automation allow companies to maintain strong email deliverability since contacts receive messages that are relevant to them instead of receiving emails that are irrelevant, which results in low engagement rates or emails which can easily be reported as SPAM. Both low engagement rates and SPAM effects a companies’ email deliverability rate, which is the rate at which emails sent end up in the inbox vs. junk.
Furthermore, when companies adapt Marketing Automation, they also have the potential to drastically increase conversion rates since they are sending relevant content, offers, and more to their contacts.
Altogether, Marketing Automation allows companies to adopt the philosophy of providing the right message at the right time to the right contacts, a benefit that cannot be understated.
What are Marketing Automation Tools?
Marketing Automation tools are powerful digital marketing platforms that allow companies to..
- Do everything that the majority of email marketing solutions allow you to do
- Segment contacts dynamically
- Implement an “if, then” automated email campaign
- Maintain strong email deliverability rates
- Send the right message at the right time to the right contacts
When Marketing Automation tools are adopted and implemented effectively, it can create a wealth of success for businesses.
When to Use Marketing Automation Tools
This should look familiar to many of you. This is a basic build of the CVO process in an Infusionsoft campaign.
(NOTE: If you’re not familiar with the CVO process, you need to read this right now.)
This can be powerful for a small business since it allows you to automate the right messages going out at the right times to the right people. In addition, Marketing Automation platforms typically have a breadth of reports so businesses can make more data-driven decisions than ever.
Contact Relationship Management Tools
Using a contact management system, or CRM for short, has many values for a small business. With that said, when talking with other small business owners, many do not incorporate the use of a CRM in their business.
What Are Contact Relationship Management Tools?
A CRM can be instrumental for storing prospect or customer data, managing workflows, managing sales processes, and much more.
The benefit of incorporating a CRM solution cannot be understated. When you have a CRM solution in your business and you actually use it, you decrease the chance of human error (simple forgetful-ness for example) in regards to managing workflows and sales pipelines.
Just like the email marketing solutions mentioned above, CRMs typically have flexible API interfaces as well so you can integrate it other platforms, such as email marketing and shopping cart solutions.
When to Use Contact Relationship Management Tools
You should use a CRM as soon as possible. They allow you to keep track of your contacts, update them, create sales pipelines, and just store valuable information on a consistent basis with your contacts. This is why they are so beneficial in a business. Every business needs a filing cabinet to keep track of contacts, this is your filing cabinet.
Shopping Cart Tools
For the type of businesses that need to set up a store front on a website, accept payments for products or services, and do it all with the utmost encryption or security, then you need a shopping cart solution.
What are Shopping Cart Tools?
There are many shopping cart solutions out there so there can be a lot of confusion around which shopping cart solution is best for your business.
Just like the CRM and Email Marketing solutions mentioned, most shopping cart solutions have open API interfaces too so you can integrate them with other platforms.
When to Use Shopping Cart Tools
If you have any type of business, there is value in having a shopping cart.
Through a cart you can track purchases, frequency of purchases, average customer lifetime value, and give prospects the opportunity to purchase on their own through your funnels or website. Who doesn’t like to make money automatically?
If you are a small, service-based business, that handles a few transactions per month, then the argument can be made that you can get away with not having a shopping cart. Instead you can lean on solutions like Quickbooks, Freshbooks, or Paypal.
Other than that, just about every other type or level of business, can find use for a shopping cart. Also, keep in mind, to automate the entire sales cycle in a business, a shopping cart is essential.
This is a rarity in platforms for small businesses. Many of the solutions mentioned above have some sort of cross-list of features but there are only a few, true all-in-one solutions. All-in-one solutions allow you to automate much more than single-featured solutions mentioned above but they also have higher costs associated with them.
The value that offsets the higher cost is the fact that these all-in-one solutions, can handle multiple functions typically derived from multiple solutions which saves money from having to purchase multiple solutions and saves time by minimizing the time drain that can occur from having to bounce from system to system. When you are managing a growing business, this is a massive challenge that impedes growth and also takes businesses away from opportunities.
What are All-In-One Solutions?
The two main all-in-one solutions on the market today happen to be Infusionsoft and Ontraport.
Ontraport doesn’t have a true full slate of eCommerce functionality so if you need a shopping cart, Ontraport does not have one. Ontraport does have order forms so you can still automate the sales process. They both include full CRM functionality and rules-based, robust, marketing automation.
Essentially to duplicate the set of features that both platforms have, you would have to adopt Salesforce, Hubspot, and 3D Cart, which can easily cost you over $500 per month, to be able to match the same features that both Infusionsoft and Ontraport offer.
When to Use All-In-One Solutions
Infusionsoft and Ontraport both have a full CRM and Marketing Automation list of features.
Where they differ is that Infusionsoft has a fully-featured E-Commerce set, a more intuitive campaign builder with an easy to use graphical interface.
For example, if you need to set up a shopping experience on your website for when prospects want to add products or services to a cart, Ontraport does not allow this to be built out.
Infusionsoft also has a much larger pool of plug-ins to add additional features and functionality.
However, they are both powerful all-in-one solutions and fantastic.
Ok, now for the fun part…
Let’s take a look at some advanced automated processes that can be built out.
Keep in mind that these processes can be built out with a combination of platforms above through API, “out of the box” with the Marketing Automation Solutions or the All-In-One Solutions.
- Track lead sources and produce ROI reports that show cost per visitors, lead, and customer.
- Webinar registration and follow up
- Interest or behavior-based offers
- Affiliate registration and follow up campaigns
- Sales process targeted follow-up and scheduled tasks
- Dynamic marketing based on actions, behaviors, purchases, and more.
- Full internal workflow processes
- Full billing and purchasing support; automated billing, emails when billing errors occur, assigned tasks
- Retention processes
- Responses when actions occur in membership-website based products
- Targeted up-sells, down-sells, or cross-sells
The possibilities are endless, especially when you are working with all-in-one or marketing automation solutions.
They are designed from the ground up to be very flexible, robust, and to work with outside platforms, plug-ins, and software solutions to create automated systems for your business.
When you are working with the stricter-featured platforms that focus solely on…
- email marketing
- contact relationship management,
- shopping cart
… you’ll often end up “gluing” a bunch of solutions together resulting in a business that looks like this…
There’s significant value in using marketing automation or all-in-one platforms because they build systems that…
- create efficiencies
- and additional revenue streams
… automatically within your business with a singular solution instead of a hodgepodge of API-connected solutions.
But these Marketing Automation and All-in-One systems are not for everyone.
Once a business starts to generate revenue and experience growing pains, that’s the ideal time to move into a Marketing Automation or All-In-One solution.
At the end of the day, keep in mind that the #1 priority as a business owner is to put systems in place for your business and ALL of the solutions do that to varying degrees.
Where to start with Business Automation?
I’ve created a spreadsheet that compares the functionality and cost of over 30 business automation tools.
It looks like this…
Use the comparisons in this spreadsheet and the information in this article identify the best solutions for your business.
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